Welcome to Learning @ ISB!

Welcome to the learning at ISB blog! We’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 years, but we’re back and excited to continue sharing learning at its best at ISB.

At least twice per month, we’ll be publishing posts written by ISB educators sharing their thoughts & reflections on learning. Have an idea for a guest post? Let us know! Want to get inspiration delivered to your inbox? Enter your email on the right to subscribe! [Make sure to keep an eye on your ‘Other’ inbox tab for the emails!]

Have thoughts about something you read on this blog? We love comments! Feel free to leave your thoughts here or come chat with us in person.

As we relaunch this blog, we wanted to introduce Learning at its Best and our principles & approaches of learning. You probably have one of these posters up in your classroom or have seen them around the school. All of our blog posts will be written through these lenses. Want to dive deeper into one area? Check out the categories on the right to begin exploring!

Learning at its Best

ISB’s principles of learning provide a research-based foundation for how students learn best and insight into what makes our learning environments most effective. ISB’s Learning Principles are based on Tripod’s 7C framework of effective teaching: Care, Challenge, Confer, Clarify, Captivate, Consolidate, Collaborate, Classroom Management.

The approaches of learning are integral to how we design learning experiences at ISB, guiding our instructional practices.

Social-Emotional Learning – Research shows that explicitly teaching social and emotional skills increases student well-being, enhances positive behavior, reduces crises, and enhances academic achievement. A focus on social-emotional learning also creates a safe, positive school culture. At ISB, we prioritize building relationships and want every student to feel cared for every day. Our Social-Emotional Framework supports students in developing self-awareness, self-management, social and cultural competence, nurturing relationships, and taking purposeful action.

Personalized Learning – At ISB, we believe in a progressively learner-driven model of personalized learning to facilitate student ownership of the learning process and provide student voice and choice in their learning. We empower students to build strong relationships, leverage their interests, and assess their strengths and areas for growth to engage in deep, relevant learning.

Service Learning – Service Learning is infused into the curriculum and across the co-curricular program at ISB. It is a relevant learning journey that integrates meaningful action with instruction and reflection. We believe that Service Learning develops compassion and empathy, strengthens communities, and nurtures a global mindset.

C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework – The community at ISB is culturally & linguistically diverse, and we aim to serve our emergent bilingual and multilingual students so that they are able to access grade-level standards regardless of language proficiency. The C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework supports faculty in creating culturally responsive lessons that celebrate the diversity of our students.

Inquiry Pathway – At ISB, we empower students to ask questions, think critically, and reflect. Based on provocations and real-world phenomenon, students see & think, wonder & question, investigate & explore, make meaning & find patterns, and explain & construct arguments.

Design Process – Solutions to the problems of the world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are given the opportunity to use design-thinking to create connections between traditional curricular areas and build empathy while solving real-world, authentic problems.


We hope you’re as excited as we are for this blog to be active again! Next week, keep your eyes open for a post from Angie (MS/HS Math Instructional Coach) with a focus on Challenge. Even better, get her post delivered to your email as soon as it’s published by subscribing on the right! After you subscribe, look in your email to confirm your subscription.

Inclusion at ISB

Inclusion at ISB
I was asked to write a blog about inclusion at ISB. As an inclusionist, it seems this ought to be an easy topic for me to write about and yet, after 30 years of doing this work, I still find myself at a loss in defining inclusion in our international schools.
You see, the idea of inclusion as well as my own thinking about inclusion has expanded and evolved over the years. In the early 1990s, I worked in a group home with adults with intellectual disabilities. Inclusion meant ensuring they had access to the community and participated in social activities with peers without disabilities. During that same time as a special education teacher I taught in inclusive schools which meant all students were taught in their neighborhood schools with their same age peers in the classroom.
This narrow definition of inclusion held true until I moved overseas in 2000. For those of us who have been teaching in international schools this long, we remember the days where we either didn’t accept students with diagnosed disabilities or we only accepted students with mild learning disabilities. Often, we accepted these students in elementary school where we felt confident in meeting their learning needs and then determined by middle or high school they wouldn’t be able to manage the rigorous, academic program. So, we did what we thought was in ‘the best interest’ of studentS and encouraged them to find a different school placement. Inclusion meant we accepted some students into our school for some period of time. Whether or not we provided adequate and professional services was another matter.
Thank goodness we’ve moved forward and now better understand the needs of our international families and their children. Some of our schools have been forced to be nimble and adaptable in terms of the students we enroll and some of us have enthusiastically chosen the pathway of greater inclusivity. I’m proud to be in a school where the latter is true.
International schools have expanded inclusive services where we now welcome students with Specific Learning Disabilities,  communication disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, etc. – and we have invested in professional resources to meet the needs these high incidence conditions present. A few international schools around the world have or are starting programs for students with intellectual disabilities, pushing the boundaries of inclusion even further.
And yet these definitions of inclusion still feel too narrow. Inclusion isn’t just about accepting students with identified diagnoses. Inclusion is really about equity and access for ALL. Inclusion is for all of us and when it comes right down to it, we are all unique and have the need to be included in our school community, regardless of gender, race, disability, religion, social beliefs, socio-economic status, sexuality, language background, etc. I encourage ISB to think about and define inclusion in this broader sense, emphasizing equity and access for all, rather than thinking inclusion is only for those with learning disabilities. Because of our privilege, our responsibility for including others is great. We have an opportunity to make the world a better place by embracing our differences and celebrating the value we each bring to the school community.
I went home for the winter holidays and witnessed firsthand the work so many advocates have done over the years in including those with intellectual disabilities into the community. While at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, I ran into a gentleman with intellectual disabilities I supported 27 years ago! He is now 60 years old, living a full life that included work (he’s retired), friendships, and an active social life. My heart was full knowing he was accepted and fully embraced in his community these past years. This acceptance and sense of belonging is what I wish for EVERYONE at ISB.

Our parents have changed their perspective, but have we changed ours?

One part of my job is occasionally leading parent workshops. I think they are so important, but they give me so much anxiety. I will spend several hours planning for a 1 hour workshop. I will rehearse what I am going to say over and over, because I want it to be perfect. At least that’s what I tell myself. But in truth, what I really want is to fill the time to avoid parent questions. Because I hold this assumption that parents are angry we teach math this way; I assume our parent community thinks more traditional methods, quick repetitious pace, and rote instruction is what is best.  
And that’s implicit bias. I was adopting a single story of what these parents are like because it has been fed to be over and over. Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns us of accepting a single story in this brilliant Ted Talk. What’s more, this single story and Chinese education is wrong. In fact, according to this Quartz article, in typical Chinese math classes there is more time spent on collective learning and less time using an individualistic approach. The whole class does not move on until the entire class has the concept. In a sense, collaboration and support of one another is nurtured. 
 At the most recent ES math parent coffee, my co-presenters and I did our best to be inclusive of the parent community. Many of the slides were written in English and Mandarin, they were able to collaborate, we provided materials for them to take in both English and Chinese, and we used several visuals to accompany our slides. We created space and access for our parents to not just sit and get but engage. And  the 40 parents that attended were beautiful examples of learners. They explored the mathematics problems, listened to one another, collaborated, had a laugh, and took risks. Not once in the oral or written feedback did I hear anything about parents wishing we didn’t teach math this way, nor was there anger or frustration that math class looks different now. The sentiment was appreciation for the opportunity to learn this way.  
Now I don’t want to sugarcoat it, I’ve been at ISB for 5 years now and I know that the parent feedback about our approaches to teaching math has not always been this positive. But, if our parents have shown us that they are willing to change, why are we still holding these negative biases about what we think they think? Have we been as willing to grow, change, and shift as our larger parent community?  
So. I hope next time you feel that discomfort when a colleague says something about our parent population, or a group of students, or a cultural group, in seriousness or in jest, that you’ll remember that people can grow and change. And I hope it encourages you to say something. 
 We have a responsibility as educators to move our community towards cultural proficiency. I know it can make things awkward. I know it can make people uncomfortable. I know it takes bravery. Brené Brown, a prominent research storyteller says, “courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.” Seems like something worth doing, doesn’t it? 

Translanguaging: One Monolingual Teacher’s Transfer of Power

It’s my first-year teaching third grade at ISB, and two kids are hunched over a math problem talking excitedly in Chinese. Still adjusting to teaching in a classroom where I can’t always easily jump into my bilingual students’ conversations, I ask, “Is this conversation helping your learning?” One child looks at me with sideways eyes and assures me that, yes, it is deepening their thinking around mathematics. The other child shimmies up to me a few minutes later to confess with all seriousness that they were actually talking about recess. I compliment him on his ability to notice how his conversation is supporting his learning (or not, as the case may be), and have a realization: my ineptitude to participate in my bilingual students’ talk actually empowers them to take a greater role in monitoring their discourse. Rather than taking on the role of the chatter-police, I can instead facilitate reflection on how conversations with peers support learning. As a monolingual teacher, I need to let go of control and acknowledge that my multilingual students bring a skill-set to their learning that I can actively encourage from the sidelines.
“Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the twenty-first century” according to Gregg Roberts from the American Councils for International Education. The linguistic capacity of our ISB students is a force that we teachers can harness no matter where we fall on the continuum of emergent bilingualism. While many ISB educators actually speak multiple languages, it is by no means a prerequisite for supporting our multilingual students. By seeking out opportunities for translanguaging, or “the deployment of a speaker’s full linguistic repertoire,” (Otheguy, 2015), we create conditions where children can bring their whole selves into the classroom for the betterment of their learning.
Translanguaging is a pedagogical tool that can be used to both scaffold and enhance. Erin Kent, literacy consultant, identifies a process for the intentional planning of translanguaging opportunities.
Begin by asking:
Is there anything about this content that might be inaccessible for some learners or might cause them to underperform because of limited target language ability?
If yes:
How might we have learners harness their linguistic repertoires to ensure that they’re working to their full cognitive abilities, not just their target language levels?
Consider the following as tools for scaffolding content through language:

  • Multilingual charts
  • Preview vocabulary
  • Strategic same-language partnerships
  • Multilingual texts
  • Family & community as resources
  • Multilingual turn-and-talks or discussions
  • Multilingual planning or journaling

If no…
 Are there any aspects of this topic/unit/lesson that make sense for learners to approach in their other languages? How might harnessing their linguistic repertoires enhance or enrich their learning?

  • Consider audience: How can we create for a multilingual world?
  • Choose topics related to identity
  • Compose bilingual texts
  • Metalinguistic word study
  • Cross language projects
  • Access primary sources

 
These days I know that I am faced with a choice. I can require my students to interact within the limitations of my own linguistic illiteracy, or I can put fresh eyes on my curriculum to identify small changes I can make to promote multilingualism. I can plan for children to use their language as a tool for their own learning, and when they make mistakes I can celebrate those instances as opportunities for reflection. I can give up a bit of control and expect that children will be whispering about recess instead of math from time to time. Because let’s face it, they’re eight, and they are going to be doing that regardless of the language.
 
Have a look at these resources from Erin Kent Consulting:
Planned Translanguaging Process
Honoring All Languages in Literacy
Amplifying Metalinguistic Awareness
 
References:
Kent, Erin (2019) Infographic: Planned Translanguaging Process adapted from Eowyn Cresfield. Retrieved October 28., 2019
 
Otheguy, Ricardo, García, Ofelia & Reid, Wallis (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281-307

My Ongoing, Messy, Roundabout Journey Toward Cultural Proficiency

Do you notice yourself remembering the names of the white kids more easily than the names of the Asian kids?” 
This was asked of me last year by a close friend and colleague. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Because as I thought about which students I acknowledged by name in the hallway, who I would ask teachers about, who I took time to build rapport with I was unconsciously investing more time in the white kids. Research says that we do tend to have a natural affinity for  people that we see as like us. In fact, an article published by Phi Delta Kappan “recent studies have found that children as young as three months old can racially categorize people” (Hagerman, M.A., 2019). 
AND I am someone that sees myself as an advocate for marginalized groups. I speak out, often to the point where it makes my family shift in their seats, about injustices in the world. I recognize that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender, English speaking woman, I have a huge amount of privilege. I feel a duty to use my privilege to support others and dismantle systems of traditional power in the world. And yet, I still hold implicit bias and look for what’s familiar and comfortable. 
An article published this summer by actor N’Jameh Camara talks about why some names are more memorable than others. She speaks honestly about how when people don’t use her name and instead use a “generic substitute,” she notices. She challenges us to think that names are not “hard” or “difficult to say” but rather “unpracticed.” I love that. Perhaps my favorite quote is, “but as a person who was taught to respect and say Tchaikovsky, Brecht, Chekhov, Stanislavski, and Hammerstein, I know my name can be learned too. What matters most is that we see ourselves as people whose vulnerability and mistake-making hold the potential to bring us closer” (Camara, N., 2019).  
Fortunately, recognizing that we hold implicit bias is a crucial first step in doing something about it. Founder of the C6 Biliteracy Framework and honorary ISB Dragon, Dr. José Medina, shares the Cultural Proficiency Continuum in his trainings and I find myself referring to it constantly. It has supported me in recognizing when we are being culturally destructive. This continuum has given me the language and tools to reflect and speak up when I hear things that are not inclusive and supporting of our community. 

Original source of continuum: Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. Examples and quotes original.  

As a coach at ISB, I get the honor to work with and learn from the incredible educators here. I am so fortunate to see the high-quality teaching and care teachers share with students. I am all in when it comes to helping others who I coach, I care deeply about them as people and care completely about nudging them to where they want to grow. But as coach, as Elena Aguilar says in her article, “I have to keep the faces of all the children who [teachers] are responsible for, whose lives [teachers] affect, in my symbolic peripheral vision, equally in focus and present and part of the conversation. I am accountable to those children” (Aguilar, E., 2014). Coaching or collaborating without a focus of creating equity and access for our students is a missed opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.  
My journey towards cultural proficiency is not over. I still slip up, or occasionally bite my lip when I hear something that marginalizes others. But I am also committed to improving. If you have books, research, ideas, people you follow, tips and suggestions, or just want to talk about this with someone, I would love to learn. 

References: 
Aguilar, E. (2014). Why we must all Be Coaches for Equity. Education Week. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/12/why_we_must_all_be_coaches_for.html 
Camara, N. (2019). Names That Are Unfamiliar to you Aren’t “Hard,” They’re “Unpracticed”. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/names-that-are-unfamiliar-to-you-arent-hard-theyre-unpracticed?fbclid=IwAR0rwGC_Xxs59fUSKgBErE2vl9tA2ASVmmwHfqmNwdULnJm17cs0Qup3k_A 
Hagerman, M.A. (2019). Conversations with Kids about Race. Phi Delta Kappan. https://www.kappanonline.org/conversations-children-race-childhood-racism-hagerman/ 
Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. 

Two Nice Language Moves to Promote a Culture of Learning – and One Overwhelmingly Average Move

As someone who’s been to more than a few international job fairs, I’ve learned to pay close attention to the pronouns used by the interviewer. When principals use the term “my teachers,” a little red flag goes up, and I can’t help but think, “Well, jeez, I don’t want to work for any boss who thinks I belong to them.”
How different does it sound to hear principals use the term “we?” All of a sudden, the context shifts to one of a shared community. Just one little pronoun has the potential to communicate a set of values held by the speaker. The same can be said by the pronouns we use in our classroom. By paying close attention to the language we use with children, we have the opportunity to share our beliefs about learning with the students we serve.
Move  #1 – Pay Attention to Pronouns
Whenever possible, take “I” out of the equation

  • I like how you worked to be so precise”

Translation: Your job as a student is to earn my admiration.
 

  • I notice how you worked to be so precise.”

Translation: Your work is for my eyes.
 

  • You’re the type of student who attends to precision”

Translation: I am making the positive presupposition that you’ve made decisions about your learning and have cultivated the disposition to put those decisions into action.
* Note: Sometimes we really do like things; it’s nice to say we like things if they truly delight us. It’s less nice to use this language to manipulate behavior.
 
When it makes sense, change “you” to “we” and “your” to “our.”

  • You are going to work to revise your writing today.

Translation: You are working on your own to do this learning.
 

  •  We are going to work to revise our writing today.

Translation: You belong to a learning community where we work collectively -me included -towards similar goals.
 
Move #2: The Prompting Funnel
 Author and literacy expert, Kim Yaris, conceptualizes scaffolding prompts as a funnel. The first and most abundant types of prompts provide the least amount of scaffolding. Her prompting funnel bookmark is designed for reading, but it is not difficult to imagine how it could easily be translated to art, math, design, language learning, etc.

Use these prompts:

(prompts that encourage the child to rely on herself)

What can you try?

What do you know?

How do you know?

How did you do that?

What else can you try?

How else can you check?

 

Before these prompts:

(prompts that encourage the child to rely on the environment):

Where is the tricky part?

Where can you look for help?

What charts/tools/documents can support you in figuring this out?

 

Before these prompts:

(prompts that encourage the child to rely on the teacher):

 Sound it out.

Where can you add more shading?

Draw a model to help you.

Use what we learned about cognates.

How many of us find ourselves working harder than the child we are teaching? By mindfully attending to our prompts, we support children in carrying a heavier cognitive load.
Move #3- “Beats Me”  (the overwhelmingly average move)
This move sure isn’t going to earn me any Teacher-of-the-Year Awards, but it has served me well on more than one occasion. Occasionally a child asks me a question, and I really have no idea. Looking at them with wide eyes, a shrug of the shoulders and a very sincere, “Beats me,” lets them know that I am not keeper of all knowledge.
True, this feedback doesn’t offer them even an ounce of support in figuring out their puzzle, so I don’t use it often. Still, every once in a while, it’s just the thing to support them in developing the habit of asking themselves before looking for a quick fix from the teacher.
 

“The brain that does the work is the brain that does the learning.”

– David Sousa (consultant in educational neuroscience)

Ultimately our classroom culture is developed by a million large, small, and sometimes hidden messages imparted through our words, our environment, and our routines. Switching an “I” to a “we” will not a culture of learning make. At the same time, these tiny shifts can serve to reinforce powerful ideas around thinking and learning.
 

Getting real about Learning Objectives

I feel the need to be honest with you, ISB. I am a content and language objective convert.  I will admit that when I was first told that we would write daily content and language objectives for math I was compliant but skeptical and quietly resistant.  I looked for shortcuts, kept the same generic objectives up for days, hardly shared them with students, and kept them designated to a hard to see corner in my room. I was beginning the journey, but hardly moving.    
And, since we’re being completely honest with each other, even after my initial training with the brilliant Dr. José Medina, I still wasn’t convinced. I was inspired and enthusiastic about supporting emergent bilinguals in my classroom, but I did not see how being more intentional about objectives would positively impact student learning.  I know I am not alone in my struggle with objectives. How do we manage the seeming polarity between inquiry and creativity with COLOs? How do we balance wonder and curiosity with routines?  
My short answer? Write better objectives.  
Recently, I read this article from Lustre Education that reminded me of my initial feelings about objectives. The author posits that objectives, or learning targets, rob students of the opportunity to explore concepts and inhibit deeper learning. As the SIOP instructional coach here, I have heard the same argument made among our faculty. But I will assert that if we are not writing, posting, and reviewing our content and language objectives, we are doing our students a disservice.   

  • COLOs are proven to have a positive impact on student learning. Let’s get down to the numbers. For reference anything above an effect size of 0.40 is considered significant.*
    • COLOs enhance teacher’s clarity.  Teacher clarity has a 0.75 effect size.   
    • COLOs promote classroom discussion. Classroom discussion has a 0.82 effect size.
    • COLOs encourage self-verbalization and self-questioning. Self-verbalization and self-questions has a 0.64 effect size.  
    • COLOs are an example of student-centered teaching. Student-centered teaching has a 0.54 effect size.  
    • COLOs provide goals and outcomes for students. Goals has a 0.50 effect size.  
    • COLOs communicate learning and language expectations. Expectations has a 0.43 effect size.  
    • By contrast, teacher subject matter knowledge has an effect size of 0.09. 
  • COLOs are a differentiation tool. In posting accurate content and language objectives they give language learners and student who receive learning support the permission to focus and excel at one thing at a time.  
  • COLOs allow teachers to be more student-driven and student-focused. Because COLOs are written for the student, a teacher is thinking through what students need to learn and how they will show they learned it. It is not about what the teacher will do, but what evidence the teacher will gain from student performance.   
  • COLOs build community. Specifically, language objectives highlight the opportunity for students to communicate and intentionally listen to one another. They foster an environment where students learn from each other and from the teacher as well as promote risk-taking, learning from mistakes, patience, and empathy.  
  • COLOs promote authentic interaction. When students are communicating during a lesson with specific COLOs they already have a frame of how to interact. They know the skill they will be communicating about (content) and the aspect of language acquisition they will be practicing. 
  • COLOS provide a springboard to new thinking. For our students that are fluent English speakers or already have a solid understanding of the content, COLOs can be the jumping off point to ask themselves “and what else can I pursue within this topic?” For example, if the content objective is “I am learning to multiply fractions less than 1 whole,” curiosity might be peaked to explore areas like how patterns apply to numbers greater than 1 whole, how patterns connect to decimals, negative numbers.   
  • COLOs can help manage off task behavior. COLOs bring our students (and us) back to the intention of the lesson when we’ve gotten too far off track. We’ve all been in the situation where one student has a connection and it opens a whole parade of stories. Being able to say, “How does your connection support our study of point of view?” or “I’d love to hear about roller coasters when we’re walking to lunch, but for now let’s get back to learning about blends” validates the students while refocusing the group.

How to craft better content and language objectives  

  • Create them with your students. I saw a beautiful example in a grade 1 classroom. The teacher began by saying “Today we’re going to keep thinking about adding numbers and showing our thinking. What might our content objective be?” After listening to students, he paraphrased and wrote on the board. Students immediately saw their thinking validated. Then he asked, “How will we show we can add using more than one strategy?” which led students to suggest they could write their thinking clearly or they could talk to the teacher about what they did. COLOs done.  
  • Replace the word ‘learning’ to ‘inquiring’ or ‘exploring’. Feeling locked in or uninspired by “I am learning to…”? Perhaps try “I am inquiring into…”, “I am exploring…”, or “I am puzzling about…” as a way to open up thinking.  
  • Commit to introducing  them with students. One of the most powerful ways I grew in crafting purposeful objectives was when I became intentional about sharing them with students. I knew that if I shared the objective at the beginning of the lesson and saw puzzled looks, scratched heads, heard “huh?”, or had to further explain what they meant, then I had not crafted a student-centered objective.   
  • Commit to reviewing them with students. Sometimes our lessons go in different directions than we anticipate. Sometimes this is awesome, exciting, and enriching, but sometimes it is unproductive learning and thinking. In reviewing the objectives it reminds us and our students of the goals that still need to be achieved.  
  • Use action verbs from Blooms Taxonomy to specify what students are doing. The more intentional we can be about our language the more likely students are to reach the desired learning outcome. Do you want them to measure? Design? Generalize? Tell them in the objective.  
  • Use specific action words to specify reading, writing, listening, and speaking objectives.
    • Reading: locate, skim, find, discover, distinguish 
    • Writing: question, explain, list, revise, justify, summarize, record  
    • Listening: distinguish, categorize, follow directions, choose  
    • Speaking: debate, define, express, predict, restate, share, tell 
  • Use cultural objectives to connect skills to the real world and the hidden curriculum. Ultimately, we want our students to be kind, good hearted, accepting people. This goes beyond the discrete skills and knowledge that are emphasized through content and language objectives. Cultural objectives provide the opportunity for students to make connections to their community, their lives, and the world around them. Cultural objectives are golden opportunities to touch on learning dispositions such as curiosity, problem solving, and critical thinking. Something like “I can be curious about patterns in numbers” or “I can recognize patterns to help me solve problems in the real world.” 

To end with one more bit of honesty, I can confidently say that Content and Language Objectives, when utilized correctly can positively impact all the students in your classroom. 
*All data is taken from John Hattie et al.’s book Visible Learning for Mathematics (2017)  
 

Skip to toolbar